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How to create a no-stress social media strategy
Author : Stephanie Joy Hubbard
Posted : 21 / 04 / 21
Here’s a no-nonsense, manageable guide to creating a social media strategy to support your business goals.
Whether you’re just getting started with your organisation’s social media activity or you want to reinvigorate your efforts, you need to start with a clear strategy.
We may tend to think of a strategy as a very clever, long and complicated piece of work that typically lives in a meandering PowerPoint deck. It’s presented in a long and tedious meeting before being packed off to die in a dark, lonely corner somewhere deep in the shared company Drive.
But when it comes to creating a strategy that will actually be used, less is always more.
Now, this is not to say that strategy can’t be clever and layered. Far from it. You’ll need to put in thinking time and call on assorted skills to achieve your long-term goals. You’ll need to build a clear understanding of the problem and employ vision, creativity, patience and determination to see the solution through. But, to be effective, your strategy needs to be simple. It needs to be simple enough to be memorable.
Standing with this task ahead of you can feel intimidating, but it doesn’t need to. In this post, we’ll look at exactly what you need to do to create a simple and memorable social media strategy that supports your business’s goals. I’ll also show you how you can present it effectively to stakeholders, if that’s part of your process.
A social media strategy is a plan for achieving or supporting your business or communication goals on social platforms. Your strategy should be your guide or map for how to approach social media. It should help you stay on track and focused.
Before you start doing, you need to do the thinking. If you don’t work out the problems you’re trying to solve first, you won’t know when you’ve achieved your goals.
Your social media strategy should do two things equally well:
You should keep a balance between these two things. You can’t use social media as a channel to push out messages about your business without having a strong sense of what the audience will actually find interesting. For example, you might want to publish your latest press release on your Facebook page, but will anyone care?
Often, when people engage with social media, they’re in leisure mode. They’re not thinking, ‘I wonder what business X is up to’ or ‘I’d really like to be sold something right now.’ They’re much more interested in finding out what their family and friends are up to or looking for entertainment. Understanding their mindset helps to guide the kind of content you publish on your social media.
Why do you need a social media strategy? Before you start doing, you need to do the thinking. If you don’t work out the problems you’re trying to solve first, you won’t know when you’ve achieved your goals. @EmphasisWriting Click To Tweet
You need a social media strategy for two main reasons:
The way you can reach people on each of these platforms depends on the way the platform is programmed and the kinds of algorithms it uses. For example, it’s hard to build a following on Instagram or Facebook without using paid media. Whereas on TikTok, you don’t need a following to potentially reach millions of users.
You need a social media strategy in order to navigate different platforms, know which ones to use and how to use them. And, critically, knowing why you’re creating social media content will ultimately determine what content you produce.
Your overall content strategy should be closely aligned with your social media strategy – they might even have the exact same principles. But it’s worth thinking in depth about social media separately because you need to approach each channel differently – each has its own tone, serves a different purpose and requires different creative assets, be it photos, text or video.
To create a strong social media strategy, you need to understand your business goals and have strong insights about your audience, industry, competitors. From insights come ideas.
So follow these steps to create your strategy.
The first thing you need to do is find out as much as you can about your intended audience. This will allow you to make informed decisions about what social media channels to use, what kind of content to publish and when to publish it.
Here are some ideas for what to find out about your audience:
If your business is B2C, also look at:
And if you’re B2B, look at:
If you don’t have any information about your online audience, the best place to start is by looking at your existing customers. The people who buy from you already are a great indication of who might be interested in consuming your social media content.
And ask your colleagues what information they have on who your target customers are, and what data they have on them. Think about whose brains you can pick, such as the sales team, customer service, or the data team (if you have one).
Good old desk research is also invaluable – look at what kinds of people follow your competitors for ideas about who your audience could be and how to speak to them.
It’s possible to go very deep into audience research and analysis (which you may or may not have the resources to do). But if you’re keen for more information on how to identify your audience, this blog post from The UK Domain is a great place to start.
Make a list of all your competitors or any businesses that are similar to yours. Look at all their social media channels and simply make observations about how they present themselves and the content they share.
For example, make notes based on these questions:
From these observations, you can start to understand where you fit in and how to differentiate yourself. You can also learn from your competitors’ successes or mistakes.
Let’s look at the social media of two really different brands in the male grooming sector: Dollar Shave Club and Gillette.
Gillette is a trusted legacy brand with years of experience, yet Dollar Shave Club has nearly double the amount of followers on Instagram. Why? Well, it could be for a number of reasons, but a good guess would be that DSC are giving their audience more reasons to follow them.
Take a quick scroll through both accounts and you can see how DSC’s content uses a lot of humour. Check out their April Fool’s Day posts, where they pretended an elderly gentleman had found the social media manager’s phone and started posting on DSC’s behalf. Meanwhile, Gillette’s content focus is on straight product posts and promotions.
Another great comparison is Aldi and Lidl.
Aldi’s UK Instagram is one of the most inspiring supermarket Instagrams out there and makes the most of the platform’s visual focus. They stick to their strategy of posting in threes and, together, all their posts form a stunning grid that carefully align with each other. Many of their posts are carousels where their followers can swipe for the recipe or pairing notes. It’s a digital recipe book.
Lidl, on the other hand, post some short recipe preview videos but often direct their audience to their website for the full recipe. This could be a good strategy for generating more traffic to their website, but it could also be risky. Instagram don’t like organic posts to point off the platform, as they want users to stay on the platform for as long as possible. So this could lead to Instagram de-prioriting Lidl’s posts.
Through this sort of analysis you’ll get a sense of your competitors’ social media strategies. The aim is never to outright copy other companies (of course), but to find your own take that fits your brand and goals. And this process should help you to understand what works and what doesn’t, to generate ideas and work out your own niche.
Based on audience insights and your business or communication goals, next you’ll decide which channels you will use and for what purpose.
For example, if you’re a B2B business, LinkedIn is likely to be your primary focus. On LinkedIn, you can be direct – using a tone and content that conveys the value of your proposition and directs the audience to the best way to contact you. But don’t forget to consider other channels.
If you’re a B2C business, you should be guided by your audience. Which social channels do they use the most? Facebook, TikTok? An older audience will generally use Facebook and Twitter more, while a younger audience will generally use Instagram and TikTok more. (There’s a bit more to it than this, though, so it’s worth digging into demographic data on different channel use, if you can.)
And don’t assume that because you’re not a ‘young’ or ‘cool’ brand, certain channels aren’t for you. It’s all about finding your own niche and figuring out what you can bring to the table, using each channel’s format. For example, The World Economic Forum has a huge following on TikTok because they regularly publish short, simple videos explaining complex ideas that otherwise can seem inaccessible.
When you know which channels will be most appropriate, you can start to map each channel to your goals and decide how your social media activity will support them. It helps to write this out with a statement of purpose for each channel.
For example, say that one of your goals is to spread awareness about what your business is doing within a particular sector. Here, you might choose Instagram to share visuals of the work, with descriptions that spread the word about the good you’re doing.
In this case, you could outline your Instagram channel’s purpose like this: ‘We’ll use Instagram to inspire followers. We’ll use the channel to celebrate our successes, share our great work and show our culture by sharing imagery and videos of X, Y and Z.’
If one of your goals is to get more visitors to your website, you might want to consider how social media can help and which channels will be the most appropriate to link back to your site.
For example, if you have a detailed white paper published on your website, you could use LinkedIn to drip-feed facts or snippets from the white paper and add a call-to-action in each post directing the audience to download the full report.
Here’s a handy guide to the key social media channels and what they’re each best for:
Great for community-based positive stories about your brand, product or people. Also for posting blog posts and content with links to your website or sales channels.
Not great for reaching a new audience. Unless you’re a well-known brand, you’ll need to promote your page and use ads to reach people on a large scale.
Great for broadcasting news and announcements. Also for posting short videos, memes and jumping into relevant conversations to give your business’s opinion on current issues.
Not great for visuals – at least, Twitter isn’t primarily a visual platform. You can post imagery on Twitter, of course, but thoughts, opinions and discussion tend to get higher engagement.
Great for company values and culture, thoughts and opinions on relevant current affairs, new product announcements and achievements. Also for recruitment, directing people to your website and for keeping your business details up to date. It’s particularly useful for targeting very specific job titles or sectors with your messages through paid media.
Not great for overly candid content, as it’s a largely professional channel. And because people take LinkedIn quite seriously, it’s not a channel to have and then neglect: make sure you can keep a LinkedIn account up to date.
Great for sharing high-quality visuals that authentically tell your brand story, sell your product or service and spread a positive message about you and your business. Also great for re-posting third-party or partnership content on Stories and/or Reels.
Not great for reaching new audiences organically. If you need reach on Instagram, you’ll need to use paid media through Facebook Ads Manager.
Great for short, fun, playful, entertaining videos. Can your business authentically jump onto a viral challenge? Or create one? TikTok is a great way to be seen by a large audience even without a following. Just be relevant and have fun with it.
Not great for serious messages, or overly salesy content.
Great for campaign-related long-form video, partnership video and explainer video. YouTube is a channel where people come to discover content using particular keywords, so it’s a great place to publish video on complex subjects or that share knowledge. Just make sure you research the best keywords to use so you can optimise your title and text for maximum discovery.
Not great for overly corporate video: people come to YouTube to be entertained or to learn something, so always think ‘What is this video giving to the audience?’ You also can’t post long-form written content.
As you start to get an idea of which channels you want to use and how, it’s a good idea to start thinking about your social media planning – that is, the workflow for how you’ll create posts. You can use a spreadsheet to plot out your channels, the regularity of posts on each channel and add key dates or events that you’ll want to create posts for.
[Read our guide on how to create an effective and sustainable social media plan here.]
Every good strategy is measurable. Next you’ll decide how you’ll track how successful your social media strategy is at achieving the goals you identified.
For example, if you need to achieve ten new leads each month for your B2B service, what kind of content will you need to support that sales pipeline? Instagram posts probably aren’t going to help you with that goal.
But if one of your goals is to raise your profile as experts in a particular topic, LinkedIn articles by your CEO might help.
In this case, you could track how many people have seen and interacted with each post by looking at the engagement metrics: likes, shares, comments. These metrics show that people have engaged with your message and indicate how your reputation as an expert or thought leader is growing.
Comments are especially significant, because they go beyond a simple thumbs up. Pay close attention to the comments you receive (or don’t) to gauge how your audience feel about the content you’re putting out.
This is why including questions in your social media posts is a good idea to encourage engagement. People love to share their opinions and thoughts.
For example, ending a LinkedIn post with a simple call-to-action like ‘Thoughts?’ prompts the audience to chime in. This is great for insight, and also great for bumping up your post in the timeline: posts that get good engagement get shown to more people in their feed.
Social media is great for spreading brand awareness and strengthening your brand identity. But bear in mind that the channels you decide to use should be part of the full matrix of content channels. This means email, your website and any other ways you communicate with your customers.
Your social channels should fit cohesively within your overall content ecosystem, to support your overall business goals. However, they shouldn’t be seen as wholly responsible for all sales.
For example, if you’re launching a brand new product or service, your social channels can be used to generate awareness. You could use visual channels like Instagram, Facebook, TikTok or YouTube to demonstrate how people use the product or service. Remember that you might need paid media support if you want mass awareness.
And if awareness is your goal, you can track likes and comments, as well as looking at the data in the back-end of your social media accounts to see how many people have viewed the content. Here’s an example of how that looks inside Instagram:
Here, the eye icon indicates how many accounts have viewed each frame of an Instagram Story. You can also see which accounts have seen the content.
If you’re new to social media, you might want to build an online presence so that when potential customers search for you to establish your credibility, they find you to be trustworthy. In this case, your initial strategy could be to create and publish a series of high-quality visual content across several appropriate channels at once. You’ll then have populated channels that you can continue to build a presence from.
A key part of implementing your strategy may be first presenting it to stakeholders or your senior team, to get them on board or ensure you have the resources you need. Here we’ll look at how to persuade them your strategy is the one to follow.
When you create and present a strategy, you’re telling a story. You’re asking the audience to come on a journey with you. You set the scene, paint the challenge and then present the solution. It should be simple, engaging and present a strong argument.
You’ve found out everything you can about your audience, uncovered some competitor insights, chosen the social media channels to focus on and decided on your success metrics. Now it’s time to formalise those findings and conclusions in a shareable strategy document. (Yes, we’re talking about a deck: PowerPoint, Keynote or Google Slides, depending on your preference. But this one won’t meet the same sad fate as the one we talked about at the beginning!)
Use the following formula to write and present a strong and engaging strategy. Keep it brief, and use bullet points for simplicity and clarity.
First, diagnose the problems you currently face, so all stakeholders can share an understanding of where you are. Include a summary of where you as a business are now with your social media strategy. Be brutal. Honesty is best if you’re all going to get behind the solution.
For example: ‘We’re not active on any social channels’, ‘We struggle to publish regularly’ or ‘We’re not getting enough engagement on our posts’.
This section should also present the challenges you face or the reasons preventing you from achieving your goals, eg ‘We have limited time and resources’, ‘We don’t have a clear workflow’, or ‘We lack internal expertise’.
Next, include a section that states where you want to be. Try to distil this into no more than five points. And be as specific as possible. For example, ‘We want to increase our social media engagement by X%’, ‘We want to publish social posts every day’, ‘We want to get X inbound leads for product X’.
After you’ve laid out your vision, write a brief overview of how you’ll get there and what you’ll need to do so: ‘To achieve A and B, we need C, D and E.’
Then, list the cohesive, practical activities that will get you there. For example, ‘We’ll create a sustainable social media plan’, ‘We’ll hold short weekly meetings to crowdsource ideas from different departments’ and ‘We’ll create a series of templates to use on social media, so we can cut the time it takes to create social posts.’
In this section, list out which social media channels you’ll use and the purpose of each one.
After you have set the scene, proposed a direction of travel and listed out tasks that will help you get there, reiterate your strategy in a creative way to get it into the hearts and minds of internal stakeholders.
Summarise your strategy in a punchy narrative – a mission for your social media channels. Using alliteration and the rule of three is always good as this helps to make it memorable.
For example, if your strategy is about creating social content faster and using a bold tone of voice that’s better at telling your brand story, your mission could be: ‘Faster, bolder, better: We create moments for people to bond with our story – exciting them to engage with us on a deeper level.’
Put the social media mission on its own slide so it stands out and people remember it.
Your last slide should be a summary of your strategy on a page: a simplified version to hammer home what you’re saying in a succinct way. It should echo your social media mission and show how the strategy connects to your overall goals.
As you plan for your meeting, there are a few things you can do to ensure you get support and buy-in from stakeholders.
Remember, when you’re presenting anything, you’re performing. You need to be engaging – and convincing – because you’re asking the audience to agree with you. You’re taking them into a world and asking them to agree with the truth of it.
With that in mind, here are three tips for presenting your social media strategy:
Identify a stakeholder who will help you push this strategy through. Share your work with them before the presentation for feedback.
Present the minimum amount of slides, with the minimum amount of words on each slide – but make sure you have plenty to say. Make the audience pay attention to you, not watch you read words from a slide.
Have a crystal clear idea about what you’re asking for when you go into the meeting. Is it feedback on your strategy? Overall sign-off to begin work? Do you need budget clearance? Perhaps you’ve built a case for a new hire to manage the business’s social media channels.
Make it clear before you present what you want your audience to make decisions on, so they know what their role is and what they’re assessing as they listen.
Social media can seem daunting. But it’s worth taking on its challenges, as it offers so many opportunities to grow your presence, establish your brand and shape your reputation.
Perhaps more even than these, it gives you the chance to learn about how your customers see you and to listen to and interact with them directly. This means that, ultimately, if you stay close to what they say and how they react to you and your content, you can become a better business.
Let us know if you found this article useful or want to pick up on any of the points. And good luck with your social media strategy!
If you and your team are looking for help with writing social media posts that meet your goals, have a look at our in-company course Writing for social media. We tailor the course to your challenges, goals and chosen channels.
Image credit: mrmohock / Shutterstock
Stephanie is a senior content consultant who advises clients on all areas of their digital content – from social media and influencers to big creative campaigns. Her background is in social media and marketing, having previously been head of marketing for fashion brand American Apparel, as well as working for start-up social media app HeyHub.
Stephanie shares her expertise in making an impact online as a guest author on the Emphasis blog.
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